The growth of Internet of Things will no doubt be a key theme at February's annual gathering of the mobile industry at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We are still at an early stage of this growth market which has transformational potential for almost every industry. Some of the predictions announced at the event will inevitably seem a little fanciful (and we look forward to hearing who will be the next confident to our fridges) but we are now seeing real traction in this area with established IoT applications improving many aspects of life.

This article looks at some IoT applications in two areas which many of us feel passionate about: cars and sport. In doing so, we consider some of the connectivity challenges to growth and the case for regulatory reform.

Whilst the prospect of driverless cars is causing much excitement (Uber and Google are already conducting trials) leading car manufacturers have already widely deployed IoT applications in relation to infotainment, diagnostics and emergency response services. Selling cars all over the world means that car manufacturers need an international connectivity solution. Take up of these services is dependent on affordable connectivity and car manufacturers will also be focused on accessing the best available coverage and quality of service. If the roaming options for your travel plans give you a headache, spare a thought for those designing an IoT strategy for cars distributed across the globe.

The world of Formula 1 gives us an insight into the potential for IoT in cars. Red Bull's most recent F1 car has over 100 sensors transmitting real time performance information to the team. Not only does this help the pit team plan better for the race but it also enables technicians to support the car from Red Bull's centre in Milton Keynes without having to travel to the race.

The sailing fraternity will be looking forward to the closing stage of the America's Cup. Sir Ben Ainslie is leading Britain's quest to bring the cup back to the UK, as captain of the Land Rover BAR yacht. It's no co-incidence that his boat is also sponsored by BT and his arch rival skippers a boat funded by Oracle. The yachts are brimming with hundreds of sensors feeding real time performance information to the teams on the sails and hulls as these state of the art boats hydroplane at up to 85 km per hour.

Back on land, rugby lovers in the northern hemisphere will be looking forward to the Six Nations. Technology is increasingly being used to refine player performance and the match experience for spectators. Sir Clive Woodward was one of the first to adopt Player Position Tracking and player shirts are now equipped with small devices which send real time stats to coaching staff. Twickenham, the home of English rugby, has partnered with Accenture to trial apps and crowd displays which use real time player data and, perhaps more importantly, enable you to order drinks from your seat. IoT has the potential to improve the spectator experience and increase the revenue opportunities for clubs, provided, of course, they have the connectivity to support these data hungry applications. Accenture had to upgrade the WiFi network at Twickenham and clubs looking to capitalise on these innovations will need to consider their connectivity capability.

Technology companies certainly recognise the potential. Cisco's Connected Athlete is focused on developing spectator applications which harness real time player performance data provided by IoT enabled kit. Bayern Munich FC has bought into the opportunity, partnering with SAP to develop applications.

These applications give rise to a range of challenges in terms of connectivity, ranging from WiFi capacity at venues such as stadiums, the network capabilities on high speed craft and racing cars and the global requirements of the car industry. Depending on the application, connectivity is delivered across the full range of network technologies (fixed/WiFi, mobile and satellite) each with different performance characteristics and economics.

Regulation has an important role in facilitating growth:

  • IoT services will add to the rapidly increasingly coverage and capacity requirements of our networks and regulatory policy must create the right environment for investment in new network technologies such as fibre optic networks and 5G services.
  • National regulators need to collaborate more to meet the global requirements of IoT services. IoT applications will involve a broad range of technology and communication providers and regulators should take a co-ordinated approach to issues such as spectrum management, standards and roaming so as to facilitate international growth. Regulatory barriers to entry in markets should be reviewed against the consumer benefits of IoT applications.
  • Most regulatory regimes are based on old world communications services and should be brought into line with today's communications services on a technology neutral basis.